Troops in Iraq celebrate Thanksgiving with turkey, pizza
Soldiers with the 0411 Military Transition Team, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division had just come off a 24-hour mission with the Iraqi Army, and many of them slept in on Thanksgiving morning.
Around 10 a.m., Capt. Adrian Cole, 28, of Brunswick, Maine, woke up his roommate, 1st Lt. Dave Pierce, 24, of Huntsville, Ala.
“Wake up, sunshine!” Cole said, giving Pierce a nudge on the shoulder. “It’s almost time for our wonderful Thanksgiving lunch. Turkey and cranberries, woo!”
Some of the soldiers at Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit, Iraq, said they were looking forward to the meal.
“If I can’t be with my family, I’d at least like to have a nice sit-down dinner,” said Staff Sgt. James Sutton, 32, of Snow Hill, N.C.
Others had more mixed feelings.
“Here or there, it don’t matter, it’s all the same to me,” said Spc. Patrick Guillen, 26, of Chino, Calif.
With their morning free and little to do, several of the soldiers decided to watch movies. First came “The Replacements,” a football comedy starring Keanu Reeves. Then it was “Live Free or Die Hard,” the latest installment in the action series.
A couple of soldiers returning from the post exchange reported that the line at the mess hall appeared to be at least an hour long.
Rather than wait in line, Capt. Brian Mason, 25, of Philadelphia, Sgt. William McCormick, 24, of Savannah, Tenn., and Pfc. Dustin Roscoe, 21, of Burleson, Texas, opted for Subway sandwiches and Pizza Hut pizza.
Mason, who is on his second tour in Iraq, said Thanksgiving in the war zone just wasn’t the same as back home.
“We still have patrols out on the road and pilots flying around. People are out doing the same thing they do every day,” he said. “It’s not a day off.”
Roscoe said the things that make Thanksgiving special weren’t possible in Iraq.
“That’s the first thing you think about, families,” he said. “And what do we not have in Iraq? Our families.”
Still, said McCormick, as he munched on a slice of pepperoni and cheese pizza, things could be worse.
“We could be eating MREs,” he said.
At Camp Victory in Baghdad, Staff Sgt. Carlos Runnels of Macon, Ga., acknowledged that Thanksgiving was different without his wife and family but put his own spin on things.
“You have your family at home, but you also have your family here,” said Runnels, who works with Multi-National Force-Iraq’s communications and information systems. “I look to left and right, and I see my family.”
Staff Sgt. Natalion Seymour, of New York City, who works with Multi-National Corps-Iraq, said it didn’t feel too different from a regular workday. But the little bit of extra time off is nice, he said.
“You get to eat some good food, sit down, talk with your friends and relax a bit,” he said. Seymour, who is Jamaican by birth, says he’s slowly gotten into the spirit of the American holiday. Back at Fort Hood, Texas, Seymour says he cooks Thanksgiving dinner for single soldiers who can’t make it home.